Remarks from the November 19, 2021 announcement of the future App State Hickory campus

Friday, November 19, 2021

Good afternoon.

I am Sheri Everts, Chancellor of Appalachian State University, and I am thrilled to welcome each of you here today, to announce Appalachian State University's Hickory campus.

This morning, App State finalized the purchase of this building. The building many here have called the former Corning Optical Communications building will now be the App State Hickory campus!

I would like to thank Leroy Lail for his ongoing advocacy of educational expansion in Hickory, particularly during his time on the UNC Board of Governors. His son Brad is here representing him today. When I arrived in Boone in 2014, Leroy immediately initiated conversations with me about the possibilities for App State in Hickory! I extend my thanks also to Don Beaver, another steadfast champion of this project. The influence of both Leroy and Don is certainly felt throughout Hickory, and we have appreciated their counsel and their support for this project in particular.

App State’s Board of Trustees is represented here today by Mark Ricks, Vice Chair of the Board; Tommy Sofield, Board Secretary; and Jeff Chesson and Steve Wyatt, members at large. Tamela Everette is here representing App State’s Foundation Board of Directors. Thank you, all, for representing App State’s leadership boards.

Thank you also to Stephanie Blair, who is here today on behalf of United States Senator Thom Tillis; Mike Fenley representing United States Senator Richard Burr; and Brett Keeter, representing United States Congressman Patrick McHenry. I’d also like to recognize App State champion and North Carolina Senator Deanna Ballard, who has provided her consistent and steadfast support to App State. Thanks also to Senator Dean Proctor and Representative Ray Pickett, for being in attendance today. We ALL very much appreciate the hard work of our General Assembly members on the recently passed state budget. It is evident that education is a priority for you, and we appreciate your advocacy, which resulted in critical support for App State and higher education in North Carolina. Thank you so very much!

We are also fortunate to be joined by the City of Hickory’s Mayor, Hank Guess, who will share remarks in a few moments. Mayor Guess, thank you so much for being here today.

Council members from the City of Hickory, members of the Catawba County Board of Commissioners, and officials representing Caldwell and Burke Counties are also here today. Would you please stand to be recognized?

We are so appreciative of your support for App State.

And of course, members of the Catawba County and City of Hickory management are also here today. These individuals have been so helpful, especially in recent weeks. I’d like to particularly thank Warren Wood, City Manager for Hickory, Rick Beasley, Assistant City Manager for Hickory, and Scott Millar, President of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, whom you will hear from shortly. Thank you so much.

At nearly 226,000 square feet, this five-story building is now officially the largest owned by App State. It features large, open spaces, a cafeteria and nearly 700 parking spaces, as well as nearly 16 acres of land.

The future App State Hickory Campus has frontage along Highway 321, is located less than two miles from the Hickory Regional Airport and four miles from Interstate 40. Our new campus is close to beautiful downtown Hickory as well as two regional hospitals, and is only a short drive from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Morganton, which will open its doors to students next fall.

This morning, our academic deans took a tour of the building, and they have already begun discussing the possibilities for academic programs that will be offered here. As we renovate the building, we will also perform a sustainability audit to assess energy and efficiency needs, as well as opportunities to advance the university’s sustainability mission.

Hickory is a vibrant, growing city, just a short drive from Boone, that offers opportunities for App State to continue the mission we have had since 1899 — to increase access to education. Hickory, with its highly rated library system, expansive cultural offerings, excellent interstate, rail and air access, and emphasis on preparing a workforce for the future, is an excellent partner for App State. The one thing Hickory did not have — until today — is a UNC System campus. In fact, until today, Hickory was the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina that did not have a major, public university campus.

More than 371,000 people live in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area. Forty-three thousand people live in the city of Hickory, and nearly 160,000 people live in Catawba County, and this area is GROWING. It’s certainly no wonder that local leaders are focused on equipping the workforce here for the jobs of tomorrow.

Earlier this week, UNC System President Hans told an audience filled with public education leaders that the greatest successes in higher education happen “when we build the platforms from which others can rise,” and he emphasized that the health of our country depends on “broadening our vision of who college is for, and who institutions of higher education are meant to serve.”

In 2018, when I was appointed a commissioner and co-chair of the Higher Education Task Force for myFutureNC, a statewide commission on educational attainment, we set a goal to ensure that two million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. App State is a proud partner in achieving this goal for our state.

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, App State consistently receives national recognition for academic excellence and overall value. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly ranked App State as:

  • First in the Most Innovative Schools among Southern universities.
  • Second in the Best Undergraduate Teaching among Southern universities.
  • Third in Top Public Schools in the South.

App State’s current enrollment exceeds 20,000 students, yet we are known for small class sizes that allow for high quality student and faculty interaction, for excellent undergraduate research opportunities and for service to our local and regional communities.

Our retention and graduation rates exceed the national averages, and our graduates have college debt rates that are far below the national average.

Our mission to increase access to a high-quality, affordable education has led us to focus our recent efforts on increasing the number of rural and first-generation students who attend and graduate from App State, while also increasing the diversity of our university population. About one-third of our undergraduate students are first-generation college students and about one-third come from rural areas. More than 18% of our students come from underrepresented populations — an increase of 66% since 2014.

App State continues to increase the number of critical workforce credentials in the fields of health professions, teacher education, science, technology, engineering, and math.

For those who may have never thought a college education could be a possibility, App State is HERE, with a top-quality public education that can lead to a brighter future. For those want an App State education but choose to live and work in the Hickory area; for those who may have begun but not completed their undergraduate degrees — App State is here for YOU.

We look forward to having everyone back soon for a building tour, announcing the specific programs that will be offered in this building and sharing a timeline for opening the doors to the renovated space.

Now, please help me welcome the Mayor of Hickory, Hank Guess, to the podium.

Thank you, Mayor Guess and Scott, for your kind remarks. App State shares your excitement for the future, and we are thrilled about the enhanced role we will play in the continued economic development of Hickory and the surrounding area.

My leadership team is here today, and I hope you will get to know them. Will you please briefly stand when I call your name so you can be identified?

  • Dr. Heather Norris, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor;
  • Hank Foreman, Vice Chancellor of External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Chief of Staff and Secretary for the University;
  • J.J. Brown, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs;
  • Jane Barghothi, Vice Chancellor of University Advancement;
  • Mark Bachmeier, Director of Human Resources;
  • Dr. Lee Ball, Chief Sustainability Officer;
  • Matthew Dockham, Director of External Affairs and Community Relations;
  • Doug Gillin, Director of Athletics;
  • Megan Hayes, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer;
  • Jason Marshburn, Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management;
  • Paul Meggett, General Counsel;
  • Jamie Parson, Interim Chief Diversity Officer;
  • Andy Stephenson, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police; and
  • Tom Van Gilder, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer.

Our academic deans are also present today:

  • Dr. Shannon Campbell, Dean of the College of Fine & Applied Arts;
  • Dr. James Douthit, Dean of the Hayes School of Music;
  • Dr. Marie Huff, Dean of the College of Health Sciences;
  • Dr. Mike Madritch, Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences;
  • Sue Polanka, Dean of University Libraries;
  • Dr. Melba Spooner, Dean of the Reich College of Education;
  • Dr. Sandy Vannoy, Dean of the Walker College of Business;

Academic Affairs Vice Provosts Dr. Neva Specht, Dr. Mark Ginn and Dr. Mike McKenzie; Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Nick Katers; Executive Director of Alumni Affairs Stephanie Billings; Executive Director of Donor Engagement & University Events Margaret McCoy, and Ron Elmore, Interim Regional Director of the Small Business Technology Development Center, are also here.

Each of these individuals will have a role in developing the future of the App State Hickory campus, and I know they look forward to speaking with you all today and in the future.

I’d like to close today’s remarks by inviting everyone to join us for lunch catered by the App alumni-owned Hatch Sandwich Bar. Many people have heard me say Hatch makes the best sandwiches in the world! I am so pleased they were able to cater our event today, and hope you all enjoy.

Thank you, again, for being here to share in this incredibly momentous occasion!